WWDC — Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference — is a week-long convention showcasing the world’s most valuable technology company’s latest innovations, and it’s reliably chock-full of news. It’s where the company demoed the Power Mac G5 back in 2003, the iTunes App Store in 2008, and Apple Music in 2015, and it’ll be no less newsworthy this year.
We’re expecting to hear about Apple’s Siri-powered smart home speaker, and big updates to all four operating system platforms: iOS, MacOS, WatchOS, and tvOS. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see new hardware, too — potentially new MacBook Pro models, a 4K-capable Apple TV, and the iPad Pro 2.
How to watch WWDC
Apple will livestream the WWDC keynote address from the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on June 5 at 10 a.m. PT/1 a.m. ET. You’ll need to meet certain prerequisites to watch it, though.
If you’re watching on a Mac, you’ll need Safari 6.0.5 or newer and Mac OS X v10.8.5 or later. On a PC, you’ll need Windows 10 and Microsoft’s Edge browser.
If you’d prefer to watch the keynote on an Apple TV, good news: Apple’s providing a dedicated stream that’ll pop up automatically on tvOS 6.2 or later.
What to expect
Historically, Apple has used WWDC as an opportunity to preview upcoming versions of iOS, the mobile operating system that powers the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Assuming the company keeps with tradition, we’re expecting an overview of iOS 11 highlights, and the start date of the new iOS’s public beta program.
Most of iOS 11’s changes are incremental, rumor has it. It’ll reportedly introduce group FaceTime calling, a Skype-like feature that’ll handle conferences between three or more parties, and make FaceTime Audio the default method of calling between iPhone users. That’ll result in clearer, crisper calls as Facetime Audio uses LTE to deliver higher-quality audio than a typical voice call.
Apple Pay, Apple’s digital payments platform, is expected to support peer-to-peer payments. Like Google Wallet or Venmo, iOS 11 will reportedly let you send money to friends, or use an Apple Pay iMessage extension to transfer cash to chat partners asynchronously.
Low Power Mode, iOS’s battery-saving feature, is reportedly due for an upgrade. iOS 11 will intelligently monitor your usage habits, location, and connectivity, disabling sensors and background apps to save power as needed. It might learn to conserve battery when you’re home Wi-Fi network’s out of range, for example, or when your iPhone’s battery falls below 20 percent charge.
iOS 11 could ship with an improved keyboard. In November, Apple was granted a patent for “dynamic keyboard positioning” that automatically positions home-row keys under your fingers, reducing the need to look down when you’re typing.
Other potential iOS 11 enhancements include a power-saving Dark Mode, a beefed-up version of Apple’s social Clips app, a sleep-tracking app, and a messaging menu that’ll tie in conversations from email, SMS, and social networking apps. The iOS 11 developer beta will likely debut this month, with a public beta to follow later this summer.
MacOS 10.13 — the unrevealed version of the operating system on Apple’s MacBook notebooks, the Mac Pro, and the Mac Mini — remains a mystery. But WWDC is where we could learn its official name. A report on Pike’s Universum suggests it’ll start with the letter “M.”
Performance might be the focus this time around. MacOS 10.13 will ship with Apple’s new file system, APFS (Apple File System), which optimizes Flash/SSD storage and includes features like strong encryption, space sharing, copy-on write metadata, cloning for files and directories, and snapshots.
Tighter integration with iOS seems likely, too. MacOS 10.13 might support iOS’s rumored group FaceTime Audio calls.
Apple might give iTunes, its ballooning digital marketplace, a makeover as well. Rumblings ahead of last year’s WWDC suggested that Apple would introduce a redesigned client that put Apple Music, the company’s music streaming service, front and center. That never materialized, but Apple might take the opportunity to roll it out this time around.
If history is any indication, we’re expecting Apple to make the first MacOS 10.13 beta available in June, following the keynote.
10.5-inch iPad Pro
The iPad Pro, Apple’s flagship tablet, could get a major upgrade at WWDC.
The successor to the iPad Pro — the iPad Pro 2 — could ship in as many as three sizes: 9.7 inches, 12.9 inches, and a new 10.5-inch model. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is said to be slightly thicker than Apple’s current-gen models, but with smaller bezels — the screen reportedly fits into a chassis that’s the same size as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro 2 might feature a home button and camera that’s built into the screen. Some reports suggest the tablet’s top bezel will house a front camera and other sensors, and that Touch ID — the fingerprint-reading technology built into Apple’s newest iPads and iPhones — will be squeezed into the space behind the screen.
The iPad Pro 2 may debut alongside a new Apple Pencil, the stylus that currently only works on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The improved Pencil reportedly has a built-in magnet that can stick to the iPad’s side, and new annotation features that work across Apple’s Mail, Messages, and Safari apps.
MacBooks and Mac peripherals
Apple doesn’t typically announce new MacBook laptops and desktops at WWDC, but it has before. In 2013, it took the wraps off the infamous trashcan-shaped Mac Pro. And according to a report from Bloomberg, Apple’s considering all three MacBook lines — including the long-neglected MacBook Air — for updates at WWDC.
Apple’s expected to roll out new versions of the 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro, both packing Intel’s faster, more power-efficient Kaby Lake processors.
The new MacBooks may also ship a brand-new Apple chip — a power regulator designed to manage Power Nap, a MacOS feature which keeps iCloud and other software up to date while your Mac’s asleep. Currently, some Power Nap features require the Mac to be charging, but the new chip could do away with that requirement.
Peripherals like Apple’s Magic Keyboard might see a refresh. An Apple filing published with the Eurasian Economic Commission in June references the keyboard’s model number. Rumors hint that the keyboard might gain an OLED Touch Bar, as found on the latest MacBook Pro.
Siri-powered smart speaker
Apple’s reportedly prepping an artificially intelligent, voice-equipped speaker to take on Google Home and Amazon’s Echo series — and it might take the wraps off it at WWDC. According to Bloomberg, the Cupertino company’s engineers recently started testing a Siri-powered assistant that supports Apple’s wireless AirPlay standard and offers “deep integration” with the company’s product lineup.
Apple’s Siri-powered speaker is said to match the competition’s feature set blow-for-blow. It reportedly supports HomeKit, Apple’s home automation platform, and AirPlay, a wireless standard that beams audio and videos from one device to another. Bloomberg reports that it’ll let third-party services build integrations for the speaker, much like the Echo’s “skills.”
But the Apple speaker’s real differentiator is said to be its Beats-branded audio technology. According to Bloomberg, it’ll offer “virtual surround sound technology” and sound reproduction that’s “louder” and “crisper” than the Echo and Google Home. Apple’s also considering including sensors that automatically measure a room’s acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use.
Apple’s expected to preview watchOS 4, its smartwatch operating system, at WWDC.
It’ll likely ship on the upcoming Apple Watch 3. The company’s next wearable is said to have a glucose-monitoring sensor that that can measure the level of insulin in your bloodstream — a feature Apple CEO Tim Cook’s reportedly testing personally.
Rumor has it WatchOS 4 will support “smart bands” — new interchangeable watch bands said to add different functions to the Apple Watch — and cellular connectivity.
Other potential WatchOS 4 features include call support for Apple’s wireless AirPod earbuds and battery life optimizations.
The Apple TV, Apple’s all-in-one entertainment console, might be in line for a WWDC refresh. Rumblings suggest Apple will launch a set-top box with support high dynamic range (HDR), a high-contrast color standard, and resolutions up to 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels).
New video-on-demand services are reportedly in tow with tvOS 11, the newest version of Apple’s entertainment-centric operating system. According to Buzzfeed, Apple will announce that Vudu, the Walmart-backed movie and TV service, and Prime Video, Amazon’s streaming platform, will be available on tvOS this summer.
WWDC 2017 might mark the debut of an enhanced Siri. According to Business Insider, Apple has assigned a large number of the engineers from VocalIQ, a voice recognition startup it acquired in 2015, to “make Siri talk more naturally.” The next-gen Siri can reportedly handle complex commands like, “Find a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and Wi-Fi that’s kid-friendly,” and is said to be better at filtering out ambient noise and adapting to challenging accents.
Apple’s longtime messaging platform, iMessage, has remained exclusive to the iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone and MacBook computers since its debut. But that might change at WWDC. According to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Apple engineers have passed around “detailed mockups” of iMessage apps for Android.
Mockups don’t necessarily mean that an iMessage client for Android will ever see the light of day, but reports ahead of last year’s WWDC suggested that a release was imminent. If the rumors are true, Apple could finally take the wraps off at this year’s conference.